This fellow sent me a link to his pictures a while back, which link I will share with you anon but not quite yet.
I'm not a player, so it's not like I get this sort of thing every day. But, now and then, yes. I have enough time to give it a look, so generally I file the link and get around to it some day, and poke through the work. I try to make sense of it, see what's good in there (and, here's an interesting thing, there is almost always something to love, apparently people don't send me links to things I will hate).
Dragan's web site has, roughly, two bodies of work, and I looked at the wrong one first. I am going to point you to the one you need to start with: Northern England.
From there you can navigate back up and find his London photos.
I found the whole thing to be an interesting body of work, but since I started with London, I ended up having to kind of back into it.
It takes no effort at all to see that Dragan is a fellow with a camera in the 1970s, doing that 1970s thing of looking for the good ones. He's thinking one picture at a time. He's also got some real ability, there are some genuinely good ones in here. The result is a pile of things that are much more structured, much more "composed" than what we might think of as snapshots. These are the opposite of vernacular photography, they're quite mannered, and as noted, good examples of that.
The London pictures read as pretty much documentary. I do not feel that Dragan has an opinion here at all, no particular idea. He's simply recording what he finds interesting, and as such had ended up with a documentary record of sorts. It lacks breadth, precisely because Dragan is focused on the pictures he thinks are interesting (there are a lot of Interesting Looking Old Guys, for instance), so it doesn't really work as a document of the times unfortunately. The pictures, while good and sometimes excellent, are not strong enough to stand by themselves. Neither as a Concept/Art piece, nor as a historical document. It is, "merely", a collection of good and often excellent individual pictures.
I think it might be really interesting to pair these pictures with modern ones of the same places. The Brick Lane Market is still there, and could be shot again. With some editing (I assume Dragan has a relatively deep archive of these pictures) you could get something. The editor would impose, from the outside, that necessary opinion, concept, idea. It could work.
Moving on, though, to the Northern England pictures.
There's a much higher percentage in here of wall-hangers, of "the good one" shots. Damn near everything in this set could be hung on damn near any wall and do the wall justice.
Much more important, though, it's clear that Dragan has a real emotional response to the region. We are at once appalled by the endless factories and smokestacks and taken by the beauty he finds in places that are, objectively, pretty wretched. In the pictures of the people we see a much warmer connection than in the London photos. In London, Dragan is shooting "street" style, looking for candid shots of interesting people and tableaux. In Northern England as often than not people are posing for him. Even the candids feel more engaged, and correspondingly engaging.
While it is fairly clear in this set of pictures that Dragan was still trying to shoot individual wall-worthy pictures, it is also clear that he has an opinion about the region. That idea has led him to, more or less spontaneously, create the sort of thing I like, a coherent body of work that takes a position and says something.
So what we have, to my eye, is the same guy, with the same camera, doing more or less the same thing in two different places. In one of the places he has some fairly profound feeling (I am cheating here, to an extent, because I read this piece before writing this one, but I had arrived at this conclusion first.) In the other place, he's just taking pictures. It doesn't look to me like he even cares about about London to hate the place, he seems more or less neutral about it. Probably he likes it well enough, and thinks it's got some interesting looking bits. But his soul appears to be largely untouched by London, whereas it is deeply moved by the north.
And so I offer this as a lesson. It is that emotional connection, that depth of feeling, that makes all the difference. Same man, same camera, same time, same methods. Totally different bodies of work. I am confident that I have identified precisely what makes the difference.